Dumfries and Galloway defends nursery teacher cost-cutting plan
A council has defended plans to cut costs by replacing teachers with "pre-school officers" in its nurseries, in the face of criticism from a union.
An Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) petition has gathered hundreds of signatures against the move.
It said Dumfries and Galloway Council had unilaterally decided on a cheaper alternative to qualified teachers.
A spokesman for the authority said it was required by law to develop more "flexible" provision.
The proposals were put forward as part of a string of plans to reduce spending across the council.
A report estimated the authority could eventually cut spending by nearly £240,000 by transferring nursery teachers to primaries and replacing them with the pre-school officers.
It proposed a pilot project starting in August at 10 schools which could then be rolled out across the region.
However, it recognised that there could be a perception that "provision was being diminished".
The Dumfries and Galloway EIS petition said it was "outraged" at the move by the council.
"At a stroke they decided that Dumfries and Galloway parents need childcare rather than nursery education, ignoring the clear benefits pre-school children derive from the structured educational provision provided by nursery teachers' input," it said.
'Needs of parents'
A council spokesman said: "Early learning and childcare is changing and this option prepares some of our schools for their role in this.
"It allows some school nurseries, where there is a need, to develop flexible provision outwith the school day and in the school holidays, to better meet the needs of working parents and those seeking work.
"We are required to do this by law with the introduction of the Children and Young People Act."
The spokesman added that the move could also have benefits for some of its employees.
"In addition to meeting this need, the introduction of pre-school officers in some nurseries will also provide a career pathway for nursery nurses, who are committed and valued staff with expertise in working with two, three and four-year-olds," he said.